The left-dominated Anchorage Assembly has made itself into a full-time operation, with a workload of far more than 40 hours a week for each of the Assembly members. Between meetings, work sessions, committee meetings, and community councils, it’s no longer a part-time job. The Assembly has had an Assembly meeting every week since the beginning of the year.
The Assembly now wants to direct the workflow and work days of the Executive Branch by having representatives from the administration attend all of its meetings.
City Manager Amy Demboski says the administration and its managers are busy, and cannot attend all the meetings that the Assembly has. She said the Administration will answer questions in writing.
Assemblyman Felix Rivera sent a letter of demands to Demboski, who has responded that the Assembly can demand all it wants, but cannot direct the employees.
“First, I do apologize that the official meeting invite was only sent out yesterday. But it should be no surprise that the Assembly’s Committee on Housing and Homelessness is meeting on the third Wednesday of the month at 11am. It has met at this date and time for years. In fact, I stated so at the Assembly meeting on Tuesday, January 11 during my committee chair’s report and even included some of the agenda items for today’s meeting during that report. I explicitly stated that we would be covering some carry-over items from December as we weren’t able to delve into them due to staffing issues,” Rivera wrote to Demboski.
“While I respect the administration’s policy, as a member of the legislative branch, I am compelled to follow the Assembly’s policy and guidelines on the matter of communications with the administration. That policy does not require me to include you, the Municipal Manager responsible for countless other duties, on a simple email to remind Mr. D’Amato about a meeting,” Rivera wrote.
“And I’d like to underscore this fact. It was not an invitation. As chair of the committee, I expect staff to attend to support its work. Especially staff which lead a division within the Anchorage Health Department named “Housing and Homelessness.” Never in the decade long history of this committee has any chair had to officially request staff to attend this important committee which, I can state unequivocally, has critical life and death discussions. But for some reason, this committee has not had adequate staff support since slightly before my tenure as chair. Specifically, this committee has languished and been unable to do its work since October (so October, November, December, and now possibly January, based on your email) because the administration has not sent the necessary staff to assist us in our work,” Rivera wrote.
“Although I am happy to provide clarity on agenda items, I would like to state emphatically that written responses to emailed questions does not replace a verbal discussion at a committee meeting. There are always follow up questions, sometimes multiple layers of follow up questions, whenever we discuss these matters in committee. As I stated above, there are two items for today that have been on the agenda for months which did have written responses from the administration in December. But the administration’s written responses left several questions unresolved and even added new questions. All of these matters should be property discussed in committee in the public eye, not in back and forth emails which are placed on an obscure website for the public to review if they happen upon them,” he wrote.
“As I stated earlier in my email — I find your statements troubling, Ms. Demboski. I am simply trying to do the work of the committee as chair and I would truly hope that the administration is willing to assist and not be an impediment. But to be frank, all I have faced are barriers from the administration to getting the work done,” he wrote.
“While I appreciate you sharing the committee’s historical schedule, I think it is reasonable to note that many of our directors are new, and if it isn’t on their calendar, they likely do not have it at the forefront of their minds. Furthermore, I understand the Assembly isn’t required to follow the Administration’s process (hence why I asked for cooperation), but Executive Branch staff do, and will continue to, follow those processes. Thus, intentionally ignoring our process, unfortunately, will only slow down your request and create frustration for you.
“I also realize you have only been on the Assembly since 2017, and during that time the lines between the Legislative Branch and Executive Branch were blurred. I want to be very clear: you do not control/direct/dictate to executive staff the administrative functions of their positions. It the responsibility of the Executive Branch to ensure the government operations are effectively managed and administered, that requires prioritizing staff time and resources.
“I can relate to your feelings of frustration; as you stated below, “never in the decade long history of this committee has any chair had to officially request staff to attend this important committee.” There have been many firsts over the past 7 months. Never in the decades-long history of the City has a Mayoral appointment not been confirmed by the Assembly. Never in the decades-long history of the City has an Assembly not only, purposely failed to confirm citizens appointed to Boards or Commissions for political reasons, but delayed, for months, appointments to Boards and Commissions. Never in the decades-long history of the City has an Assembly attempted to move the Administration from their rightful, and historic, location at Assembly meetings. Never in the decades-long history of the City has an Assembly publicly disparaged a Mayoral appointment as to harm their reputation. Never in the decades-long history of the City has an Assembly claimed right over an MOA building, in violation of Municipal Charter, State Law, and the clear Doctrine of Separation of Powers. Never in the decades-long history of the City has an Assembly intentionally ignored statements about fund certification by the Chief Financial Officer of the City. Never in the decades-long history of the City has an Assembly implied the Chief Financial Officer lied to rating agencies to purposefully downgrade the City’s bond rating in the hopes of making an Administration look bad. Mr. Rivera, I could go on, but I am confident my recap will fall on deaf ears.
“If you would like information from the Administration, we are happy to provide it. If staff are invited to meetings, they need adequate time to prepare, sufficient basis for the appearance requests, and operational availability with keen consideration that the services we provide to our community will not be impacted. The work done by the AHD saves lives every day, this is critical work that is not theoretical, it is clear, life-saving, and essential to countless members of our community.
“As I have offered many times, you are welcome to share your questions in writing and we will gladly do our best to answer all your questions. If you have specific agenda items that you feel are areas that would benefit from Director feedback, please articulate those and we will do our best to provide you good information that you and your staff can use for your purposes,” Demboski wrote.